Said Goodbye Again, But Not Without A Pic This Time

It’s a new season of family life around here.  I realized that again over the holidays when I was trying to create our annual Christmas card and discovered I had not even ONE photo of our whole family together from the previous year.  So, taking family photos was a top priority for the four weeks that Kory was home between his sophomore year at Baylor and his job back in Texas at Pine Cove Camp this summer. 

We took Kory to the airport early this morning, and it was bittersweet.  It is so nice having him home, and not only because he is so helpful around the house, at the grocery store, and at church, but also because he is so upbeat and positive and eager.  We laugh more when Kory is home. We talk about life and faith and current events more, because he initiates those types of discussions. (The only thing he asked for for his 20th birthday was the “Leading From Your Strengths” online test and evaluation. Personal development? Deepening understanding of himself and others? He’s all about it.) So, bitter? Yes, but also sweet, because every time he leaves he has such incredible experiences. We are so thankful for that.  Makes it easier to say goodbye.

This summer is especially bittersweet, because Cooper will also be leaving soon. He graduated in May, and in just a few short weeks we’ll fly off to California together and settle him into a room in Uncle Stu (my brother!) and Aunt Rachel’s house in Palm Springs, CA where he’ll work on a golf course most likely and take a year to think and pray about next steps and what he would like to study. He’s been accepted to California Baptist University and Grand Canyon University, so he’ll also get to visit those campuses over the next several months to help him make a better decision.

I’m not sure what we’ll do without Coop around. His originality and wittiness are things we have come to love, not to mention his ever improving fashion sense. He’s a thinker, a ponderer, and when he speaks about the things he’s thinking ~ faith, people, circumstances, it is usually profound. He can also lighten the mood and remind us that we (mostly me) need not take ourselves so seriously or be so easily offended. That’s a good thing. So again, bitter, but also sweet, knowing that adventure, growth, and mentorship by a godly aunt and uncle await him, not to mention sunshine, sandy beaches, and swimming pools.  Two small nephews also await him, so I think his babysitting skills will get some sharpening as well.

This girl will become an only child (sort of) at the end of August!  Her dad keeps telling her that ALL of our attention will then be focused COMPLETELY on her. For some reason, she doesn’t seem thrilled by that prospect.  I, for one, am excited to have the next few years at home with my girl. She is truly a delightful young woman. Her faith is strong (“Mom, I want to learn something new and challenging in youth group…”) and so is her creativity (She completely re-decorated her room this summer with a fresh coat of paint and pops of style and color from Good Will and Target), not to mention her athletic ability (She lettered in Varsity track as a freshman this past year). She will really miss her brothers, though. I’m sure of it.

So, we celebrated Kory’s 20th birthday on Monday. Yes, 20th. Hard to believe. I’m so glad he was home for this.  We had a small celebration, mostly so he could see one of his most favorite families ever whom he kept missing at church ~ the Moylans, but a few other friends (Lois & Harringtons & Speights!) joined in for fajitas and ice cream cake as well.

We spent most of the evening doing this. Small children + balls + trampoline + birthday boy = endless-way-past-bedtime-entertainment. Really.

It was BEFORE the party ~ and I mean RIGHT before the party that we took these photos. I’m not sure how she does it, but somehow our dear friend, Lois, comes to the rescue of many families in chaos. Crisis, too ~ but mostly just chaos. She texted me about what time I wanted to take family photos and I responded that I wasn’t sure I could fit it in with all the other tasks the day was requiring. That’s when she asked me to send her my shopping list.

So, not only did she take these photos from about 3-4:30 on Monday afternoon (in next door Northampton), but she also picked up Kayla at 1pm and they went shopping for all of the party food, unloaded it, and set it out for me to work with later. It was amazing. I could not have pulled the day off without her.  We definitely wouldn’t have had these photos if I’d tried. I only wish we’d had a passerby take one photo with Lois IN IT. Sigh…

Our last round of family photos a few years ago had me strategizing colors and outfits for WEEKS.  (I am not good at that!) Would you believe we pulled these together in about 10 minutes? That’s what has to happen in chaos, but it is not my preferred mode.

We DID manage to make a quick trip into Starbucks before heading home. The photo session happened just around back of the store, and the green mermaid was calling out to us the whole time. She’s very persuasive.

 Kory has just landed in Austin, where my dad is picking him up and probably planning on a Mexican food dinner somewhere.  He reports to summer camp and a cabin of 10th-12th grade boys on Saturday. Cooper is off to a lawn mowing job ~ one of three summer jobs he’s had which have earned him enough money to buy a car once in California.  Kayla is writing a letter to a beloved pen pal and printing recent photos to go with it.  Robert is off to a late meeting at church after a very early men’s breakfast (and trip to the airport!) this morning. I am taking a break from cooking dinner and studying ethics this evening to write all of this down. Somehow it’s helpful and healing.

I didn’t sleep a wink last night ~ watched every hour pass by on the clock by my bed which is currently located in our basement. It’s been a week of chaos and it finally caught up.  Actually, the chaos (with a heaping dose of heartbreak and disappointment) can be traced back for quite some time now. (How many of my blog posts have ended like this, I wonder?) But isn’t that usually how it is in the “now and not yet”? That theme has come up in my seminary courses over and over. I know this is not my home, and I’m grateful for that. Even still there have been great gifts in the midst…

a grocery list texted and taken care of
a gathering of friends
a family together
photos to capture a season
future plans and places
refreshing mermaid drinks
tears wiped and understood
laughter
good food
beach balls and trampolines
prayer

and even good, bittersweet goodbyes.

Tonight I am so sleepy, but so grateful for all of it.

P.S. I saved the best photos for a future Christmas card possibly coming your way. (Thanks, Lolo!)

Christmas Randomness

Seven years ago this month, I was “tagged” by a real and bloggy friend to write down 12 random Christmas facts about myself.  Kayla was browsing through my blog a few days ago and found the list.  She thought it was very funny and asked me to read it aloud.  When I refused, she started reading it to me and laughing the whole time.  Now, I don’t really think it’s THAT funny, but I thought I would just share it again ~ and maybe update a few things…

1. I used to think the words were, “Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer yoogled down in history.” 

(Kinda like I thought it was “Starbucks Lovers” instead of “long list of ex-lovers” in Taylor’s “Blank Space”)

2. Two of my favorite and most memorable childhood gifts were “shoe skates”(you know, instead of the strap on metal kind of roller skate) and a matching Gloria Vanderbilt outfit – courdoroy pants/ matching sweater with large swan insignia on front.

(Just saw a pair of those retro “Shoe skates” at the mall the other day ~ next to a record player and a vinyl record selection!?  So weird to see things from your childhood become “cool” again.)

3. In second grade, Wendy Reardon told me that there was no Santa Claus at a Girl Scout/Brownies meeting, and when it was confirmed later that evening by my mom, I felt very grown up to have this secret knowledge that my siblings did not.

(My own children have always known there is no Santa, but Kayla still insists on believing and leaving out treats on Christmas Eve.  We just thank her for the late night snack.)

4. My sister and I were convinced that the red flashing radio tower light we could see from our bedroom window was Rudolph.

(And Cooper claims to have seen a couple of UFOs in recent years…)


5. I have never seen the Nutcracker Ballet. I really want to though, and hope to take my own little ballerina next year!

(I STILL haven’t seen the Nutcracker, and NEITHER has Kayla!  Maybe someday…)

6. But I have seen the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular in New York City with my whole family thanks to the gift of my sister, Melissa and her husband! They went too, and it was spectacular!

(I really wish we could do this every year.  My brother and his wife from California are spending three nights in NYC this weekend before they come and spend Christmas with us, and I am SO excited for them.  Nothing like Christmas in New York!  I’m having a HARD time not being TOO much of a remote tour guide.)


7. I hate the thoughtless consumerism that goes on, but absolutely LOVE it when I can buy my kids something I know they really want. Stuffing their stockings is equally as enjoyable

(But it gets more and more difficult the older they get!  What do you get 17 and 19 year old boys???  I really don’t trust myself to pick out clothes for them.  Kayla, on the other hand, provides me with a list via email ~ complete with links to the gifts.  And guess what she wants this year?  A record player and vinyl albums!  If she gets this heart’s desire of hers, it will go very well with her vintage typewriter.)

8. As a child, I became an expert gift wrapper at Rowland’s department store in Uvalde,TX during the season. (It was a family owned business)

(I still enjoy wrapping gifts, but my 75 year old father takes the gift-wrapping cake!  He is a loyal Container Store shopper and purchases only the very finest of boxes, wrap, and ribbons.  He then MAKES his own ribbons at home and attaches them to each gift.)


(And while I’m telling stories on my dad, I may as well tell you that he is known by NAME at Dillard’s J. Crew, Ann Taylor, and more.  My sister texted me from Barton Creek Mall in Austin to tell me that she felt like a celebrity while helping him shop for the grandkids ~ all the sales clerks giving him a personal “welcome back.”)


9. My grandmother, Memo, made something every Christmas that she called “Divinity.” I HATED it, and for some time just the thought of it could make me gag. Now I think it was simply meringues, and I LOVE this gluten free treat! (Especially mint chocolate chip ones!)

(I don’t make meringues for Christmas much, but I do make a lot of cut out butter cookies, peanut butter blossoms, and a new favorite is “Insanely Delicious Turtle Cookies.”  Will be mass-producing cookies in just a while for Kayla’s annual Christmas tea party.)

10. My two favorite Christmas albums are Carpenter’s:An Old Fashioned Christmas (Karen Carpenter’s voice always reminds me of Christmas) and Christmas with the Rat Pack. Consequently, my daughter’s favorite “Christmas carol” is “Baby, it’s Cold Outside.”(which is NOT a carol. Sad.)

(I also never get tired of Amy Grant’s Christmas albums, but Karen Carpenter is still hard to beat!)

11. When my sister and I didn’t share a room, we used to “move in” together for the Christmas season, and decorate with extra tree lights, etc. Actually, now that I think of it, I don’t think we ever lasted until Christmas Day – too much proximity.

(Kayla will be moving into her brothers’ room next week, in order to give her room to her Aunt Melinda, who is coming in from Denver.  For some reason, none of the siblings are very excited to be “moving in” together, and I even bought them Christmas lights for their room!?)

12. I never watched It’s a Wonderful Life in it’s entirety until 2 years ago – but I’m so glad I finally did.

(And since then, I’ve watched it every year.  A few weeks ago, my seminary professor even used a clip from it in class. And Elf is my favorite Christmas movie from recent years.  It’s a tradition now to watch it every year on the day we decorate our tree. I crack up every time.  Love it.)

(And speaking of Christmas movies, how come no one ever told me about the Hallmark Channel? I’ve been following Candace Cameron Bure (Kirk’s sister, D.J. from Full House…) on Instagram, and she’s in nearly every Hallmark movie ever made, I think. We watched her movie Christmas Under Wraps this year, and I tried to win the scarf she was wearing in the movie by responding to her “live tweeting.” (yes, really) (I did not win) The movie was not at all predictable or sappy. I’m kidding. It was, but I didn’t care.)


And even though it was only supposed to be 12 random facts, I added a 13th.  This one also holds true in 2014.

13. Aside from church on Christmas Eve for a candlelight service, and New York City’s 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center, my next favorite place to go at Christmastime (anytime really) is Starbucks. What is it about that place that charms me so?  The warm wall colors, the hard wood floors, chalkboards announcing the newest seasonal drink, the cool music selections, the chai lattes (with half and half, of course)  And during the holidays, the decor draws me in all the more.  What can I say?  The Mermaid mesmerizes me, and I am simply compelled to enter every Starbucks I walk (or drive) past. 

(We have a new one in town WITH a drive-thru which is particularly dangerous.  I use it as an incentive for my big 3-store grocery trips. Ugh.)


(Oh!  And Whole Foods!  THAT’S a fun place to browse at Christmastime!)


And now I’m off to make cookies and a whole bunch of these for a houseful of teen girls tomorrow. No one ever outgrows decorating a gingerbread house!